Changing Economy Means More People Are Working For Themselves

The trouble with working from home isn’t just that there’s just so much laundry to do, the dog could use another walk or that The Price is Right is on.

When you’re working by yourself, you’re not just more prone to distraction, you’re also robbing yourself of the experience and benefits of working with other like-minded professionals.

Enter the Network Hub, a Vancouver-based business that has just opened a second location at the River Market on Westminster Quay. The business offers a variety of options for workspace rental in an open concept office – a trend called coworking that is catching on in today’s economy.

“It’s a different take on the office rental business. We’re not selling that as much as it is actually a membership, because a desk is just a desk right? It’s a different way of working. You’d be working beside other people and that’s really the value,” said Network Hub co-founder Jay Catalan.

Catalan said the open environment results in valuable professional networking between members, as the name would suggest. What often starts out as a friendly chat by the water cooler turns into a mixing of minds with potential clients, or collaborators.

“People may come in with the intention of finding affordable professional space for themselves other than their home office or coffee shop, but what they find over the long run is the value of the relationships they build with other members,” he said. “You can work anywhere but if you really want to grow your business, it’s the people that you’re going to need.”

Beyond the networking, Catalan said Network Hub members also benefit from being around other professionals who can help set the pace of the work day and offer ideas and feedback, like any other office.

“You feed off the energy of other people,” he said. “You get the chance to bounce your ideas off of other people, which you’re not going to get to if you’re just working by yourself at home or in coffee shops. Their feedback means a lot more to you and vice versa. People want to be able to get feedback. We’re social animals.”

Pamela Findling, a local freelance writer and Network Hub member, agrees.

“It’s super-handy for me. I find I’m a lot more productive when I’m in an environment like that, where everyone around me is working as well,” she said. “There’s a real productive energy there…I find when I have deadlines, it’s a fantastic place to go and really buckle down and get things done.”

Catalan said most of the Network Hub’s members in New West so far are freelance writers, software and web developers, and communications professionals.

While the concept of coworking isn’t new, Catalan said freelance contracting seems to be the trend in the changing economy while large companies try to shed employees who go on to work for themselves.

“It’s where things are headed. People seem to be working for themselves more, or if they are working for a company, they’re on contract,” he said. “People don’t really work for one company for their whole lives anymore. A lot of companies are exploring these types of work arrangements as an alternative to people working from home.”

The Network Hub membership options range from 5- or 12-day packages staring at $5 per hour, to dedicated desk space and private office rental starting at $250 per month. Members get high-speed internet access, reception service, mail and courier handling, a kitchenette and washroom, a shared fax line, access to monthly networking events and three free days at other coworking locations around the world that have partnered with the Network Hub. The facility also offers boardroom and event rental space.

Catalan and co-founders Minna and John Van started the Network Hub in Gastown while the three were still in university and trying to meet clients for their web design business in busy coffee shops. When the sound of espresso machines was putting clients off, they shopped around for traditional office space downtown, but found the settings were often too rigid and corporate.

“That was the impetus for that,” he said. “We just wanted an office for ourselves that worked for us, that didn’t feel corporate, that felt more collaborative, so we built that.”

Catalan said as they chose to expand into New Westminster to draw in professionals who don’t want to commute to Vancouver but still get a professional office location. They were first approached by Mayor Wayne Wright who wanted to woo the business-minded trio to New West but it wasn’t until River Market director Mark Shieh approached them that they decided to expand.

Source: New Westminster Record

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